Spotlight: Lucas Noguiera
A top prospect since 2010, Brazilian center Lucas Noguiera’s name has been floated around as a potential lottery pick in each of the last three drafts. After deciding to withdraw from draftee pool in 2011 at the last minute, and forgoing the process entirely in 2012, Nogueira has thrown his name into the hat for 2013. With Monday’s draft withdrawal deadline in the rear-view mirror, this time there’s no turning back.
Born in São Gonçalo, Brazil, he currently resides in Spain, a country from which he obtained a second citizenship 2009 in order to play for Club Baloncesto Estudiantes, a professional basketball team in Spain’s Liga Asociación de Clubes de Baloncesto (Liga ACB).
Last season, Nogueira, who often goes by the nickname Bebe (baby in Portugese), averaged 5.4 points (66.1 FG%), 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just over 13.6 minutes per game. But don’t let his underwhelming numbers fool you.
Liga ACB is considered the world’s best professional basketball league outside of the NBA, with premier NBA big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka all having recently made the jump from Europe’s top league to the NBA. Because of Liga ACB’s highly competitive nature, and its emphasis on tenure over potential, even its brightest young players often find themselves riding pine early in their careers.
2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol spent his first three professional seasons playing for ACB powerhouse Barcelona, from 2003-06. During that stretch, he averaged just 11.0 minutes per game. It was not until he left Barcelona for Girona, a struggling former ACB team that is now defunct, that he saw his minutes rise above 20 per game.
And in Serge Ibaka’s lone season in the ACB, with Manresa, he played just 16.0 minutes per game, despite his team’s 14-18 record and the Congolese big man’s per-40 minute numbers of 17.8 points (54.7 FG%), 11.3 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks.
While minutes are hard to come by for young players in Spain, the experience gained from playing professionally alongside some of the world’s best players is indispensible.
“I am ready,” Nogueira recently told HoopsWorld.com as the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy. “[The Spanish League] is not like the NBA... There might not be a Dwight Howard in the ACB, but the other players were very physical against me. I have other skills that have me allowed to play well in the ACB. I might be not physically ready, but I have other essential skills.”
Standing seven feet tall with a 7’6” wingspan, Nogueira clearly has an NBA frame. Now, he’ll just need to add some weight to it.
“The NBA is the best league, and there would be no better place to learn and improve,” he said. “Especially the physical aspect of the game, which is one of my biggest flaws right now. In the NBA, you work a lot on your body, so it would be a good opportunity.”
Transfer between the ACB and NBA is less common than one might imagine, even for the league’s top young prospects.
“The NBA is a dream for everyone,” said Nogueira. “You have to be realistic and know if you are ready or not.”
At this stage, Bebe believes he is finally ready.
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